Panama President Ricardo Martinelli said Tuesday that Colombian prisoners in the jails of Panama would be “better off” in their country and offered to pay for their repatriation.
Panama opened on Tuesday ‘the most modern prison in Latin America,’ aiming to reduce an ongoing overcrowding problem. President Martinelli was present at the event and stated that he is willing to repatriate foreign prisoners from Panama jails, especially Colombian prisoners.
The director of Panama prison system, Angel Calderon, announced that there are 15,000 prisoners, of which 1,200 are Colombians, with Colombians representing 8% of total inmates in Panama. According to Calderon, the majority of Colombian inmates are imprisoned because of drug-related crimes.
Martinelli said “Why don’t you take all those Colombians that are here, I’m sure they would be way better in their country than committing crimes in ours,” according to El Colombiano newspaper.
In addition the Panama president said that he would pay for all repatriation expenses, “If you want, we will happily pay all the expenses, we’ll bring them over and leave them at the gates of the prison”.
The Colombia ambassador in Panama, Angela Benedetti, said on Tuesday that she will pass on Martinelli’s offer to the Colombian Minister of Justice and ” […] it seemed to me that it was an act of generosity[Martinelli’s offer] because if you ask the inmates they all want to be repatriated,” El Tiempo reported.
Three hundred Colombian prisoners from Panama’s jail ‘La Joya’ went on hunger strike in February, demanding repatriation. Prisoners complained about the inhuman conditions in which they are living and asked the Colombian government to assist their repatriation.
- Panamá está dispuesto a repatriar presos colombianos (El Tiempo)
- Panamá asumiría repatriación de presos (El Colombiano)
- Inauguran en Panamá cárcel ‘más moderna’ de Latinoamérica para combatir hacinamiento (La Razon)
- Presos colombianos en Panamá en huelga de hambre (Caracol)